Sunday Tea Time Tales – part three

Sometimes we all need to fill ourselves up with stories. Sating ourselves with great thirsty, dry-throatedly glorious gulpings of fresh stories and tales. The kind of tales that revive and ignite us; the kind of stories that make their way to our hearts with an unwavering, straight and true line.

I can always tell when I am feeling dull, and in between, lacking in any kind of iridescent lustre. At times like that I don’t really read too much, as though there is nothing new to hear, or say, or think about. And I feel as though I am static like some great lumpen holiday caravan, perched on a cliff, lashed by the prevailing sea and wind to no avail – somehow having lost the ability to be moved, in any way by anything at all.

As awful as those times can be, I have found that there is a weird necessity for that feeling every now and again. A kind of cultural barrenness where all those little things that make us human; our love for art, music, storytelling, cooking, dancing, loving as a way of exploring our own existence and meaning, just aren’t working for us at the present time.

When it does happen, I find that it usually coincides with personal change. Not necessarily the big life-changing moments, but rather just the small yet palpable, though not insignificant, changes in how my life is unfolding. It could be a changing perspective perhaps, even something as simple as a change of season, a change of heart over someone, or something; all of which in their own way have implications for whoever I am at any particular moment.

I have found that the last few months, during the earlier period of lockdown, and quite frankly, throughout this pandemic led year generally, this has been something I have felt as acutely as ever before. As though nothing quite fits as it did before. Not an altogether unsurprising revelation I suppose.

And it appears to be a feeling shared by many others I have spoken to. A feeling that familiar and habitual joys just don’t feel the same. Or, like wearing trainers to church – it didn’t seem quite right, worryingly inappropriate. I felt that reading, just the practice of sitting down to read felt weird. It seemed selfish, or indulgent, to open a book and nuzzle down to read, legs curled up underneath you, when to all intents and purposes a great pandemic was unfolding beyond the kitchen window. As though by sitting down to read I was entirely unaffected by it what was happening all around me.

But slowly that feeling of alienation began to change to change. I felt a rush of hunger for culture again in all its forms, always a good sign for me. It is a way I can tell I am optimistic, engaged, curious, participating. It is a response to feeling alive and looking forward in every way possible.

And perhaps that is needed, in this strange year during a time we are dissociated from so much we are used to, and when we are surrounded by so much fear and loss. Perhaps we need to remember stories and words and ideas as much as ever. Remembering the old stories that comfort us with their eternal truths , listening attentively to the new ones that suggest new pathways ahead. Finding faith and comfort in what they tell us about how to live, and live well in these strange and troubling times.

Recently I had a text message from an old boyfriend who I am planning to meet up with soon ( another story for another time). He asked me how I was, and I told him, quite sincerely, that I was happy because I had a great big pile of books I was looking forward to reading.

And it was true – I was excited about reading all those words stacked up in a lovely long tower of books. And knowing that by opening them I would be lost among other people’s stories, thoughts and ideas. I couldn’t wait to fill up on ideas, and that very specific kind of soul nourishment that reading can give you.

So in lieu of any great little story this week I thought I would just pay homage to the beauty of the concept of a story – and all the forms that a story can come to you – be it from a persons lips, a film, a book, a poem, a photograph, a meal, a painting, the clothes someone wears, anything that speaks of something, no matter what form it takes to do so.

Finally, I just wanted to say that in my twenties I went on a girls holiday to Rhodes. I can remember the two books I took with me to read during that lovely, long uncomplicated week; Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons and a 1970’s bodice ripper that had belonged to my mum called Blake’s Reach. It was all windswept Cornish houses and moody smugglers hiding in caves, while women with flame red hair and emerald green dresses clutched their pearls on cliff tops. It was mesmerising on so many levels!

What I remember from that holiday was how avidly we all read those two novels – passing them along to each other. Blake’s Reach the guilty pleasure of my Mums twenties, had become the guilty pleasure of ours. And proof that a good story is a good story for so many complicated, wonderful unfathomable reasons.

🌿🌿🌿🌿

Sunday Tea Time Tales Part 2

 

Thank you to everyone that took the time to read my first Sunday Tea Time tales last week. I loved writing it, particularly writing the idea behind it – finding something during the week that had warmed my heart and made me smile.

Without too much unnecessary detail. this week life hasn’t been quite as carefree as the last. As is often the way, quite a few unexpected things have happened all at once. Unsettling news, plans gone awry, decisions to be made and the lurking uneasiness of the pandemic news with that constant very new phenomena of what it feels like trying to balance your life in the midst of one…

 

Consequently it has been a week where my nights have been heavy with close and uncomfortable dreams; in which houses with many rooms didn’t have enough doors to get out, where unfamiliar surroundings were filled with strange people. All of them followed by mornings where you wake to think, what on Earth was all that about????

 

With that in mind I felt really insincere almost, writing about something lovely, knowing that my week had largely been anything but. I am no Pollyanna, and nor do I want to tell the kind of stories that suggest I am. I don’t always see the world through a prism of roses and rainbows. My own experiences tells me that sometimes we see rainbows and roses, but in order to see them we need to allow for lots and lots of rain in-between.

But what I do want to praise is the idea of loveliness when it comes along – as fleeting, ephemeral and transitory as it may be. And that it as real as anything else, though our skewed perceptions may often make us think otherwise.

And so with that thought as my inspiration, I began to wonder if writing about good things was a way to make sense of everything else. To actively, however momentarily hold onto the golden threads of those lovely moments, like the strings on a balloon, and really make an effort to take notice of them for what they gave us. What if we are able to remind ourselves that lovely things do and can happen, and that they will always happen. And what we really owe to ourselves is to make the most of them when they do.

Because surely it is these moments that will sustain us through the harder bits that come in between.

So with that in mind when I thought about something to write about that had happened in my week that made me happy, I chose the story below. It isn’t even a story really, just a moment in which the meaning behind it reveals its importance,

x

 

Friday afternoons.

So there is something delicious and cosy about the last pick up from school on a Friday afternoon. I love the gathering in of all the book bags and coats and the shredding of school shoes in the porch. I love going inside our home, closing the door with a happy sigh. I love the thought of the weekend stretching ahead like a long yawn. I sleep better on a Friday night than on any other day of week.

Yesterday we picked up my friend Stephen on the way back from school. He is an honouree Grandfather to my daughters’ and a dear friend to me. He is the same age as my Dad ( less than two weeks apart in age) and we have a genuine friendship that defies all logic. It has found common ground across differences of gender, age, culture and religion. 

We became friends about ten years ago. I had first moved to Shropshire, having spent over a year living in the wilds of the Scottish borderlands, experiencing a winter like no other. It had been a winter where two foot long icicles hung from doorways and window frames and which never thawed. Where snowdrifts were waist high and not even a bright red lipstick could cheer me up.

The following year, I decided to make the move to Shropshire to take up a job as a housekeeper for a man who lived in a big house. I moved there the following September, into a house that came with the position. I arrived with my two dogs, all my worldly possessions and the deep yearning for a fresh start.

That house I will always remember for it’s small and ineffective fireplace, which  smoked continuously, it’s large garden that took me the best part of a Sunday to mow, and mice in the pantry. And it was always very, very cold. Quite often I would wake in the morning to find that the water in my glass had frozen solid during the night.

I was in my thirties during that time and hadn’t yet learnt to drive. I had begun to drive a bit up in Scotland, my then boyfriend hiding his horror, appalled as I crunched the gears on his old Land Rover. I was always terrified, gripping the steering wheel, never moving out of first gear, and never (thankfully) encountering any other vehicles but constantly dodging sheep.

I soon realised having moved into my new home that I really needed to drive. I was in charge of household shopping, and preparing meals in my role as housekeeper, and I lived a fair old way from the shops. My small pedal bike that I cycled everywhere on – comical in its inefficiency, was the only thing I had to get me around at the time. And so, slowly and expensively, I began to learn how to drive properly. The kind of driving that took into account other actual motorists, and changing gear out of first every once in every while.

It was one particular day, when I was feeling really, indulgently sorry for myself, having cycled up a large hill, my bags of shopping clanging ferociously from the handlebars, I found myself telling the lady in the shoe shop all about my troubles. How my driving instructor had told me that I needed more practice hours, and that my parallel parking was shocking. And it was from that conversation that I ended up meeting Stephen And that was how our peculiar but genuine friendship began.

The lady was a friend of Stephen’s and suggested I ring him to ask if he would consider sitting in the car with me as I got in as many practice hours as I could before my instructor put me down for my test. (At that point a prospect so dim it was too depressing to think about). So one cold, snowy winters day, (I had left Scotland and its severe winter to encounter another down in Shropshire no less bleak) I opened the door to a man wearing a thick navy coat, carrying a walking stick, a heavy woolen trilby on his head. He introduced himself, while I shouted at my dog to stop barking (it was very, very unusual for us to have visitors!) and without knowing anything about me, this trusting, slightly bewildered man got into the passenger seat of my first car, and helped me learn to drive through the heart of that winter and well into the following Spring that was yet to come.

Over the last ten years our friendship has stuck and he has become a member of my family. He drives me mad sometimes and he makes me laugh a lot, and he has been there for me in ways that really, truly count. Friends come to you in all kinds of ways and often looking back, at times when you need them most. I think we became friends at a time where individually our lives were making little sense. I see now, looking back, how very, very lonely we both were. And I think it was that shared understanding of being lost, that meant we were able to show compassion towards each other with real and meaningful human warmth. Meeting new friends often brings inevitable personal change; subtle as a leaf but no less important for it, And when they do, the colours they bring to your world can last for a lifetime.

So this Friday, my friend Stephen sat on sofa watching the television with his honouree Granddaughters as I busied myself making tea. The rain began to steadily pour outside and would continue to do so all weekend. But with the fire lit and the curtains closed, and looking at those three humans who I loved, sitting on the sofa eating crisps and watching CBeebies, life felt good. 

The space between the notes. Learning to live with Winter.

 

As I write this, Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis have both raged around the corners of our home. We have been lucky to escape the floods but the feeling that something ferocious is happening all around us is deeply visceral and strangely effecting. And yet we are here, safe together. There is a sense of peace despite the weather outside.

Today is Sunday and the week ahead of half term. It is a morning of ritual and routine for us; mostly made up of the small things that can mean so much when there isn’t always a great deal of personal time by yourself. I try and make the most of those moments when they come: a cup of coffee, perhaps a hot bath with some essential oils and a page or two of my book. (I’m reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles)  My girls are downstairs. I think the television is playing and I can definitely hear chatting. Mornings like these have become priceless to me.

 

 

 

When I first began writing this blog post it was just before Christmas and was intended to be read as a precursor to the busy time ahead. I had been doing a lot of thinking about the forthcoming festive season. Not just about Christmas, but rather all the seasonal and cultural markers that all come together during this point of deep Winter. The Solstice, the New Year, then further ahead to Imbolc and the seeing in of the longer days and the eventual coming of Spring.

I wanted to find an intentional way to live through the deep cradle of Winter that is January and February, and find a way for it to have purpose and reason rather than being a time I was just desperate to see the end of. I really wanted to do things differently this Christmas too. I wanted to have a slower more intentional time with my children, and to celebrate the occasion in a way that made it meaningful to us.

 

I am still learning about what the word ‘meaningful’ represents for me and for my girls, and how we can put that into our daily lives in a way that feels natural, authentic and sustainable across our lives as we grow. It may be that we do so in a way that isn’t very obvious to anyone else, other than the three of us; incorporating these principles softly and imperceptibly, but having them as part of our daily lives nonetheless.

But I do know that it is something I am very much committed to. To build our sense of family that lives seasonally, as part of the Earth, rather than against it, and to make the time to embrace those seasons, and the occasions that mark them. And to do so fully and with compassion and intention.

This is in the main because of how important nature is to me but also because I think, in this way, it will guide us toward building a loving, respectful, kind and balanced family. For me making a commitment to take things slowly, and intentionally is a way of honouring all the elements of childhood and family life that I think are important.

 

 

 

With this in mind I was really delighted to be asked to take part in a creative project led by Eleanor Chetham from @creativecountryside. The project was a collaborative piece of work bringing together a collection of different voices that all spoke together on the theme of nature, rewilding and finding a space within those places that was both personal and universal.

The words that people shared were uniting and inclusive. It was like a warm huddle of people coming together to offer a little human warmth through some of the coldest and darkest parts of the seasonal year. And speaking personally, it absolutely worked for me.

I have traditionally been someone who has grimaced her way through the beginning of each New Year, seeing it is as something to endure, rather than something that might actually yield any real substance or even pleasure. But that is exactly what I found.

I discovered a common theme among everyone’s words throughout the project – namely that Winter, and it’s associated adverb wintering could be thought of as a time of reflection and evolve. It could be a period in which the very things I turned away from; the darkness, the cold and the quiet, could become welcome and nurturing opportunities. A time to to rest before Spring and the inevitable unrolling of life that it beings. A time to let go of the need to do things, and just enjoy the silence for awhile. In short Winter had a thing or two to teach me if I let it.

 

With all that in mind and those wonderful ideas in my imagination I have had an opportunity to put some theories and perspectives into real and tangible experiences that have really changed the way I have felt about these past few months.

When I have been outdoors, walking the children to nursery or being out on cold muddy walks with my dog bounding ahead of me and spraying mud everywhere, I have looked for the beauty in the empty landscape around me. I have begun to reevaluate how I look and how I interpret what I see.

 

 

I have enjoyed learning how to see winter in a whole new way; marveling at old dried seed heads, miraculously holding on to brown and weathered stalks, their steadfastness oddly touching knowing the wild weather that has blown all around them. So too, those bare and skeletal trees – suddenly there is an opportunity to study their form; to admire their gnarls and bumps and whirls and to see who they are beneath their cloaks of green. And to love them even the more for it.

 

 

 

At home I have concentrated on making an inviting and cosy place to be in – with fairy lights and blankets – music and warming food. These small things just help propel the sense of time slowed down with some cheer, and a conscious honouring of it.

And there is much to be said for all being huddled together – listening to the wind and the rain do it’s worst against the window panes, and the fire burning brightly creating a safe and wonderful retreat while it does so.

But personally the biggest change is how I address my own personal thoughts and feelings. I have always found the lack of sunlight and warmth on my skin difficult. I can get gloomy, with a tendency to brood and feel low because of it.

Whilst all of those aspects of my character remain – I have worked towards inviting those very parts of my nature to make themselves more at home, rather than trying my hardest to make them go away. I have sat with my thoughts and really tried to listen to what they have to say – discovering in doing so that welcoming my thoughts is a powerful way to feel comfortable about them and ultimately to make sense of them in the long run

I have rested more than I have ever done, resisting the urge to do more in order to make the time pass quicker. I have let chores and plans take longer to action and complete. Winter has a different energy compared to the fire of Spring and Summer and I am learning about who I am and who we are as a family as we move between those different times of the year with grace.

As a final thought I do wonder now how I will approach next winter having experienced this one as I have? I know certainly I will have less dread and fear of those darker days – and I think I will be more confident to welcome and learn from those periods of reflection and introspection that this time of year always brings.

It comes back to the phrase that I often refer to – the ebb and flow of life. And how not to be afraid of it but to understand and welcome it as an essential and wonderful part of being alive.

 

Staying for tea.

Several years ago I wrote an essay called ‘My Kitchen Table.’ It was an essay about many things; memory, hope, motherhood, love – but it was also about fragility, loss and vulnerability.

When I wrote it, I was thinking about how my kitchen table had played a key part in so many of the moments of my life that defined me.

It had became, in short, a friend.

It seemed to me then, as it still does now, that my kitchen table is arguably the place where I spend my most ordinary, yet intimate and honest moments. It is where I am all the sides of myself; the me who is not good in the mornings, drinking her coffee and blearily making toast for her children. The me that sits late at night, when my children are in bed, quietly wrapping Christmas and birthday presents, and feeling that tender burr of being an only parent. The me that writes pieces like the one I write here (and at my kitchen table too, it seems important to say), the me that likes to cook for other people. The me that has drunk too much wine with old friends’ late into the night, glasses and bottles littering the table-top, putting the world to rights and then promptly regretting it the next day.

The myriad of me’s we all carry inside us.

You could say that the kitchen table is the place where both our public and our private selves are given a seat and made welcome. We share our table with others, but crucially, it is also, at times, the solid physical presence that holds us up and supports us. Our elbows when we lean on our tables, bear our weight and our troubles. With our head in our hands and deep in private thought, it is the humble kitchen table that supports us, in all the ways that expression means.

The poet, Katherine Mansfield, chose a kitchen, and in particular a kitchen-table, as the setting for her magically-ordinary love poem Chamomile Tea. It is impossible not to feel the quiet intensity of the moment in which she describes how;

Under the kitchen table-leg / My knee is pressing against his knee

What I love about this poem is how she captures one quiet moment of intimate intensity, whilst all the while the presence of the ‘peacefully dripping tap’ and the ‘saucepan shadows’ on the walls, create a sense of timelessness and belonging that only adds to the depth of this love-affair, rather than diminishes it.

In Mansfield’s depiction of love as thriving amidst the daily backdrop of pots and pans, she intimates that the kitchen, and the kitchen-table is neither a place of drudgery nor duty but instead, somewhere gloriously heartfelt, and truthful. It is a place of roots and belonging.

 

In thinking about this post I began to ask people what their kitchen table meant to them. And in listening to their answers, I began to hear many stories in which memories became a central theme of each individual story. The table was a physical reminder of people and moments. It was about one’s parents, it was about being a parent. It was family and friendship and home, and what I came to understand was just how emotive that topic was for so many people. Memories endure, and the kitchen-table, made of wood and sturdy, endures alongside those memories as a tangible link to the past,

The photographer Sarah Mason and her partner Suzi, photograph and make films in which kitchen tables have become symbolic in their work capturing people and families in everyday settings. I recently talked to Sarah about her work photographing families. She told me how all her family portrait sessions begin with a cup of tea at the kitchen table of the family she is photographing. This small moment of gathering; allowing an opportunity for everyone to come together in a space in which they are able to feel secure, says much about the table as a place of safe-harbour and belonging. Sarah’s description of the kitchen-table being ‘more of a communal space…than the lounge’ really interested me.

Perhaps it is because when we sit around a table, we are truly looking at one another, listening and sharing each other’s space. The focal point of a table is one another. And ourselves. It is about gathering and sharing and returning. Our tables are somewhere we return to again and again, sometimes with others, sometimes alone, and as such there is a touch of ritual about that which makes it so significant and emotional for us when we recall it.

 

 

 

And now, finally for me, there are other faces around around my kitchen table on a daily basis. Other hands rest upon it, and smaller feet than mine swing beneath it. No longer a table for one. I have become a mother and this has become our family table. And my kitchen-table, silently bearing witness to all those future memories yet to come, and simultaneously representing all those stories and memories that have gone before, will be at the heart of them all.

Just as it should. My kitchen-table, thank you.

– 

Rituals, routines and the home.

 

 

A few years ago ago I lived in a small town in the South West of England. It was a place I lived for some time although I never came to think of as home. It was a place of in between’s.

And that was exactly how I felt too.

In the evenings I would take my dog for a walk. It was always early evening and a time of people coming home from work. It was a time of  homes filling with light and warmth – meals being prepared and eaten, televisions flickering in the corners of lamp-lit rooms, and an over arching feeling of people coming together; of families returning to their source.

There was one house which always caught my eye. A tall Victorian terrace house, whose kitchen was on the basement level. Looking through the window into that kitchen you could see a wooden table, with chairs seated all around it. A soft lit lamp cast yellow-gold shadows over a wine bottle, a teapot, the pictures on the wall and a fireplace at the far end of the room.

 

 

 

 

It spoke of home to me in so many ways, and articulated a need in me for a sense of belonging, which that room represented so pertinently.

 

I saw security, routine, ritual – the everyday minutiae and magnitude of life all beautifully captured in that one ordinary domestic scene.

 

When I became a mother, that idea of home, and what home meant occupied my thoughts a great deal. It meant looking back towards my own childhood, remembering what mattered to me then, in terms of what there was, but also, and perhaps harder and more complex to define; what was missing from it too.

 

In becoming a family I have thought about what being a family means to me – and what I want it to mean for my children. And in doing so the words I keep returning to, like a mantra are ritual and routine.

 

 

 

 

It wasn’t so long ago that I was a someone who was all about the ritual and rarely the routine. The former seeming so more dramatic, important, cooler.

 

Routine by comparison seemed so dull, and in truth I was fearful of it; it seemed to speak of entrenched habit but without feeling, of being trapped and in many ways being lonely and unhappy.

 

But as time went by and my inner wisdom grew a little wiser, and I became alongside that a little more reflective of my own naive follies – my thoughts around those two words began to change.

 

I began to yearn for the sanctuary of routine – suggesting to me then, as it rightly does anyway – belonging, safety and commitment. To know that whilst the world moves around you, changeable, unpredictable and progressive – those small cyclical aspects of your life that you return to again and again, can be the very things that keep you grounded, anchored and centered. In short, the very things that keep you safe.

 

 

 

 

And, in turn, that understanding and acceptance of the word, it’s reappraisal  – showed me that without routine – ritual alone is a shallow and essentially meaningless pursuit. The two words need each other to make meaning.

 

Purpose being given meaning, and meaning given purpose.

 

 

With the time of Samhain around us, and the longer, darker nights here for the winter ahead, it seems to be the best time to be thinking about these thoughts and feelings around the ideas of home and family.

 

Having spent this rare, long wonderful summer beneath the open skies as much as possible, it is now the time to go small, to return to our home, lighting fires, bringing in wood, wellies by the back door and scarves on the hooks. Knowing that we will spend more time together here at home, it seems right to learn, gather and find what rituals and routines are important to us as a family, and to embroider these little personal ways within the patchwork of our winter days.

 

So that our days, however beautifully ordinary and imperfect, can have a meaning of us as a family, in all the ways we are.

 

 

Sharing Stories. We are all storytellers.

 

We are surrounded by stories, and stories are everywhere.

We are each made up of layers upon layers of stories, and it is precisely these stories, wrapping themselves around us like a magic cloak, that work to inform and shape our identities; telling others who we are, and perhaps most importantly, telling ourselves, of who we are.

I have always loved stories. As a child I would reach out an ear, ready for the stories I would hear the grown-ups tell.

My maternal Grandmother was French and I loved hearing the stories of a different country that felt like home. The romance of a different and beautiful language, and all those second-hand tales of Convent schools, rosary beads and difficult nuns clicking down the corridors, fierce looks on their faces.

My. Grandmother Jacqueline Delance – she has written ‘To my Eric’ on the photograph. Eric was her husband. My Grandpa…

There is a story that my Great-Grandpa may have helped the Resistance during the war. He was buried with emblem of the  Croix-De-Lorraine on his coffin. We were told later, that this was a known symbol for those who supported, or were members of Free French. A kind of shared secret code for those who assisted, or took part in Resistance work.

If my Great-Grandpa did so, he never spoke of them. Some stories, are not for the telling. They are to imagined and revered, and to be wondered at. They are certain stories that remain elusive and full of mystery.

My English Grandpa made wonderful home-movies (which we discovered years after he had passed away, in my Uncle’s attic) These wonderful cine films, brought to life my Great-grandparents, French markets and my Mum when she was a little girl.

My Dad, meanwhile, came from generations of farmers. And these stories were more earthy, more rooted in land and hard work.

My Great Grandfatber, Harry, and my Grandad, Wilf. Taken in a field with a champion crop of flax in 1940.

My Grandparents had an Italian Prisoner of war who worked on their farm. He took my Dad out into the fields with him, keeping him safe by strapping him to the helm of a horse-cart, while he worked.

I look at my Dad, and these stories feel so important. They explain to me who he was as a boy. And they explain the father he is to me now.

These stories I took as my own; absorbing their adventures, and turning them into pocket-fables. These worlds of charm, heartbreak and love, that I could turn into life-lessons and learn from.

Later, as I grew older and looked beyond my family for stories, I learnt in the same way I had at my Mothers knee, to listen out for stories in public places – on buses, trains, queues at post offices and across tables in busy cafe’s.

Stories strangers shared with you on late night train rides, or waiting for taxis in heavy snow. This was before mobile phones, when talk was all around, when a good gossip happened over a counter, rather than on a Facebook timeline.

But that isn’t to say that Social Media doesn’t promote or encourage storytelling. In fact Instagram, for instance, puts storytelling at the heart of what it does best; bringing people together by the stories and images that are shared.

On Instagram, you can find such beautiful examples of storytelling, and for me, the best kind. Small insights into little moments, which in themselves speak of larger narrative arcs hidden behind them.

People who are brave enough to share a story, and to contribute towards building a lexicon of daily life; from the momentous to the minutiae, with a picture that draws you in, and an accompanying thread of a story written beautifully beneath it.

Creating a little world laid out in words and images, inviting you to imagine the rest.

The difficulty is to slow down long enough to take them in. To resist the urge to move on to the next story and the next, but instead to stop and pause, to take some moments to really listen. We should all be doing more of that. After all,  a good story will always need an even better listener for it to really come to life.

There is, of course, the argument that Instagram can be seen as idealistic or contrived, by offering up the best narrative versions of ourselves and the lives we lead.

But isn’t it also true that the art of a good storyteller is to do precisely that? To present a story with a little spin and polish. To take an event, a memory, a glance, and by breathing the storytellers magic upon it; illuminating it into something meaningful ~ something memorable. Something magical.

A passing moment, which becomes an open door to a tale,  no matter how ordinary its setting.

So my stories here – the stories I write, the snippets of my days I collect in notebooks – the photographs I keep, and the pictures I take – are all the stories I want to hand on to my children.

And as we move along through our days, our seasons, our years, more stories will pass through.

Telling stories that tell us of who we are…. 🍃🍃🍃🍃

gathering together, staying in & letting go.

IMG_1540.JPG

Happy New Year and hello to January of 2018.

I have been quiet for some time on my blog now. I have struggled these past two months or so, with a really difficult feeling of not knowing what to write, feeling awkward writing anything, and just experiencing a disquieting eerieness about the whole situation. I never usually have trouble writing, even if its just lines in my diary. I find the process soothing, and for me, a way of making sense of my days. So to be stuck in the middle of an unwelcome and bewildering silence has made me lose my confidence a little.

To be honest, writing now, feels like that first clumsy and stiff morning on your first day back at school from a long summer holiday; when you find yourself holding a new pencil in your hand, and it feels as though you are holding a plank of wood between your fingers.

The ideas and thoughts for this post, therefore, have come from that sense of alienation and worry I experienced, feeling a little lost without the words to express what I was thinking about, and in truth, not having any clarity of thought anyway. A combination of Christmas, the Winter Solstice, New Year and the enevitable quietness of January have all given me some time for reflection. And perhaps, afterall, that is what I have needed. Perhaps I just need to start from the beginning again.

IMG_1376.JPG

Coincidentally I have also spent most of this new year thinking and reflecting. I have been following a process called the January Book. Devised by the sylist and writer Hannah Bullivant (I found out about it via her amazing instagram account, and her beautiful website, which you can find at http://www.seedsandstitches.com), it is a way of outlining plans for your coming year by focusing on key areas of your life, dividing them into catergories such as family, career, finances and home, and by a process of reflecting on those areas, making a sustainable plan for the year ahead.

And in addition, we have been having a little more renovation to our home (from having a door made for the bathroom, where previously there was none) to having a partition wall put up between the living room and the sunroom (a rather grand term for what really is a little extension with a perspex roof) It has meant a lot of noise, a lot of mud and mess, and a feeling of being completely overwhelmed at having to tidy up ready for the next day, and not knowing where to begin.

But most of all I am really starting to notice a gathering change in my two little girls, as they are growing up from babies to little toddlers, and it is this realisation that has had the biggest emotional effect on me overall. I have loved every moment of them being babies – and the poignant reminder that if my IVF treatment hadn’t been succesful I would never have been able to experience any of it, has made it even more so.

And it is there I suspect all the answers to my wordless stories lie. Being quiet was neccesary for some thinking, and all my thinking was about change – and in reflecting on change, I began to see that it was all about letting go.

IMG_0957

About love and memory….

img_0718.jpg

There is something about glitter on home made Christmas cards that makes me feel safe and warm. Trying to describe it to you now, it feels like this: I catch a half glimpse of a half-memory; the contents of  small tubes of brightly coloured glitter – silver, red, green and gold – pouring out onto a blank piece of paper, to be made into a card, possibly to be given to my Mum and Dad.

I have also woven other elements into this vignette. A window, outside of which leaves of gold swirl in the mist. A warm radiator. An anticipated thought that I will be wearing a woollen scarf later when I go outside. There is also a larger sense of family somewhere. Belonging to people. Home. Whispered children’s breath misting up a window pane. Fingertips making steamy circles on the warmed up glass.

This particular memory comes back to me every year in early Autumn. Its arrival feels like welcoming an old friend, ‘Ah, there you are, come and have a seat at my table.’ I am aware it is nostalgia but it doesn’t really matter. It is a memory.  Through memory and imagining, Autumn has become a falling cascade of glitter and leaves. Who wouldn’t want to remember that?

But It isn’t just the glitter and the leaves that make me feel this way. As I grow older, memories of warmth and safety become infused with ideas of love and morality, decency and goodness. All these truths inform my world, by wrapping themselves around it like a cloak made of velvet. At times when you are faced with uncertainty and unpredictability, these are the beacons that can guide you home to your soul.

So what exactly are these truths? For me, like those small tubes of glitter, they are often little things and in themselves, perhaps nothing much at all.  A line from a book. A poem. A letter weathered from being unfolded and read many times over. Music. A kind gesture from someone that you return to again and again, possibly only realising its significance to you much later on. Kindness. Kindness. Kindness.  These all contribute towards a much greater picture, a living memory that chimes by your side, as a kind of compass reminding you of who you are, or even a guide back towards the person who you want to be.

And perhaps after all – the lessons we should learn about memories and love are really quite simple after all. If we think of them as touchstones and totems by which we can measure our present and future selves. By being grateful for the things that have touched us and by what we choose to remember with love.